Celts: Inhabitants of Myrina with images of Galatian warriors (second century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Celts: Inhabitants of Myrina with images of Galatian warriors (second century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified November 25, 2023, https://philipharland.com/Blog/?p=18070.

Small terracotta sculpture (12 cm high; ca. 175-125 BCE), found in the northeast necropolis at Myrina that depicts an Indian war-elephant (with tower and seated rider) crushing with his trunk and tusks a nude warrior holding an oval shield with a verticle spine in one hand and a sword in the other (with traces of red and blue paint; now in the Louvre, room 340):

Louvre, https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010282156

Pottier and Reinach 1888, plate 10.

Photo and sketch (by Sellier (?), from Pottier and Reinach 1885) of miniature clay statue (11cm high; ca. 150-100 BCE) of a primitive-looking, nude, standing figure with wild hair and an oval shield with boss (now in the Louvre, room 646):

Louvre, https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010282155

Comments: Very little is known about the small town of Myrina located about 37 km southwest of Pergamon on the coast, but it is likely that it came under Attalid control in 218 BCE (Polybios, Histories 5.77.4). Nonetheless, some excavations of the necropolis and other areas have turned up at least two images of Galatians, showing that a fascination with these invaders continued well after the initial invasions in 279 BCE (on which see the discussion of the Priene inscription and other materials at this link).

The first image is of a battle involving an elephant (though not necessarily the so-called elephant victory of Antiochos III) with a Galatian portrayed with sword and shield with a spine being put out of commission by the elephant’s trunk and tusks. The second image is of a nude standing Galatian, once again with sword and oval shield with boss or spine, what was becoming the standard depiction of Galatians. The wild hair in the second image, which also became common, is an attempt to depict Galatians as primitive and wild.

Works consulted: L. Gale, “Hellenistic Galatians: Representation and Self-Presentation” (University of Edinburgh, Ph.D., 2018) (link); E. Pottier and S. Reinach, “Fouilles dans la nécropole de Myrina,” Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 9.1 (1885): 485–93 (link); E. Pottier and S. Reinach, La nécropole de Myrina, 2 vols. (E. Thorin, 1888), 318-323 (plate 10 and figure 43).

Source of the images: Louvre photos used under the museum’s usual guidelines: Myr 284 / Myrina 131 and Myr 283 / Myrina 447. Second Elephant photo from Pottier and Reinach 1888, plate 10, public domain.

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